Region III Director (2020-2023)
Marcus Allen is the Region III Director for AMCHP’s Board of Directors. He has been with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) for almost 15 years and has been part of the Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Unit (CYSHCN) since 2012, serving as the program director since 2014. Under his leadership, the unit has been able to support two regional health system partners to expand staffing levels at their developmental pediatrics clinic and a third to improve its telehealth infrastructure. Additionally, his staff worked with agency and state government leadership to create an adult sickle cell clinic network.
Marcus is a native Virginian and a current resident of Goochland County. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is married with two daughters and enjoys spending time with family and following the Philadelphia Eagles and Notre Dame “Fighting Irish” football program.
What motivated you to join AMCHP’s Board of Directors?
I believe in the organization’s mission. It sets an excellent example in the field, and I have witnessed its efforts to ensure that women and children, including Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs, remain a focus in America.
I genuinely do not know of a non-profit organization that works harder.
How do your background and experience contribute to your role as Region III Director of AMCHP’s Board of Directors?
I have about 20 years of experience in the field of public health. Half of that time has been focused on child health services. I am no better than anyone else, but I have learned a lot from my mistakes and, more importantly, from other leaders over the years! I hope that some of that knowledge will contribute to AMCHP’s success.
How has your role at AMCHP’s Board of Directors contributed to your work?
AMCHP’s leadership regarding the importance of health equity after the death of Mr. George Floyd was incredibly inspiring to me. There have not been many times in my life when I have been prouder of being part of an organization. It motivated me to push for my programs to do a better job making an intentional effort to serve people of all backgrounds. Also, I have started working with our epidemiologists to take a closer look at some of our data to identify possible inequities to work with our partners to do something about it.
What motivated you to work in the maternal and child health field?
This is an easy question. About ten years ago, I saw a job posting for a State Sickle Cell Coordinator position at my current employer. I was excited about the work being done and wanted to be part of it. The opportunity to contribute in some way to the well-being of others, specifically children who look like me, provided me with something I needed at the time.
What led you to dedicate your professional life to working with children and youth with special health care needs, and could you tell us about your journey?
The first job I had in the child health field was managing a lead poisoning prevention program in Guilford County, NC. The work felt incredibly meaningful and rewarding. It gave my professional life a purpose greater than just earning a paycheck.
In addition, while serving as State Sickle Cell Coordinator at the Virginia Department of Health, I got an opportunity to visit children and families living with sickle cell disease in a clinical environment. I have rarely seen such courage. Children who have special health care needs are warriors and a true inspiration to me.
What changes are you excited to see in the maternal and child health field that support children and youth with special health care needs and their families?
I want to see the field leading in the area of transition. There have been incredible gains in the life expectancy of children living with certain chronic lifelong conditions. However, we need to do a better job assuring that adults with special health care needs transition to receive the same type of quality care. They matter just as much as the children the health care field has fought so hard to care for.
We need to incentivize adult providers to be willing to accept more young adults with special health care needs into their practices. I believe that many want to, but they are under pressure to see as many patients as quickly as possible. Insurance reimbursement must recognize the additional time it sometimes takes for a clinician to spend quality time working with young adults with special health care needs. We also need to continue to fund research that shows that this type of quality care often saves money, especially when it includes quality care coordination.
AMCHP is currently working on its strategic planning. What is something you would like to see included?
The transition-related focus that I mentioned in the previous question. We can be leaders in this area and encourage funders and insurers to prioritize this.